If you are like most people, you have a general understanding of what a power of attorney is; however, if you are considering executing a durable power of attorney in Missouri you should have a very precise understanding and spend a considerable time thinking about the matter prior to agreeing to sign one.
A power of attorney is a legal document that allows you (known as the principal) to designate someone as your agent in legal matters. There are a variety of types of powers of attorney. Understanding the authority that you grant someone in each type is essential prior to signing one.
In Missouri, power of attorney can be specific or limited in nature or may be general. A specific or limited power of attorney grants your agent very specific authority. For example, you might grant your adult child a limited power of attorney to complete the sale of your home while you are out of the country on business. A general power of attorney, on the other hand, grants the agent very broad authority in almost all legal matters. Granting someone a general power of attorney should only be done after careful thought and consideration.
The “durable” when used with a power of attorney means that the authority granted to your agent will survive your incapacity. Traditionally, the authority granted in a power of authority terminated upon the incapacity of the principal – exactly when you may need your agent to take over for you. Therefore, the durable power of attorney was created. In Missouri, a “Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Decisions” allows you to appoint someone who will control your day to day finances and personal affairs if you become incapacitated.
In the State of Missouri, if you want your durable power of attorney to include the authority of your agent to make health care decisions for you in the event of your incapacity you must create a “Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare”. By executing this type of power of attorney you are giving someone control over important decisions that will impact your health care in the future.
Whether or not you should execute a durable power of attorney in Missouri is a highly personal decision; however, the alternative could be lengthy and costly litigation at some point in the future. Absent a durable power of attorney expressing your wishes, your loved ones may end up in court fighting over the right to make personal or healthcare decisions for you should you become incapacitated. By executing one or more of these documents now you may save your family conflict, time and money. More importantly, you will ensure that your wishes are honored. Talk to your estate planning attorney about what type of power of attorney is right for you.